I can’t recall how I first came across the Write About This app but liked it immensely from the very start. The concepts behind this app grabbed me straight away and I could see the potential. How it works is this…
Children select a photo prompt that engages them from a good selection of categories or they could potentially take their own photo.
They are then prompted with a choice of three levels of questions of increasing complexity with an audio overlay in case reading independently is an issue.
They then write their stories and if they want to they can then read their stories aloud and export them as movies for publishing on the web. How motivating for learners!
The only problem with the app as it was when I first saw it was that many of the images were distinctly American- aircraft carriers, men in uniform, yellow school buses, grid iron football- and the voice over was in an American accent. And the spelling- all those favorites and colors!
I got in touch with Brad Wilson, the app developer, and asked about the possibility of making a kiwi version. He was keen so I enlisted the assistance of the Learning with Digital Technologies team for support. Monika Kern took me up on the offer and together we worked on identifying images that we needed to change and sourcing new ones with a distinctive kiwi flavour.
We did try to record the audio prompts ourselves but it was taking too long and we were unsure of the consistency so Brad organised a Kiwi voice over artist. And here we are now with the app being launched in the iTunes store. How awesome is that.
I am chuffed that they used a photo I took on the way home from working in Blenheim earlier this year as a cover photo. The youngest member of the fire brigade team proudly stood by the truck to have his photo taken while the rest of the team were giving him cheek.
Here is a quick recording I made to show you a finished story. I would love to see what you and your students come up with.
You can also purchase Tell About This from the same team which focusses more on oral retelling.
I have been learning how Pinterest works lately and I like it.
It appeals to me for its ease of use, its reliability and its social nature.
You log in and set up some pin boards of things that you are interested in. Add a Pin It button to your bookmarks bar by dragging it, just like you do for your RSS or Diigo or Delicious or VLN bookmarlet.
Anything you like on the web with an image in it somewhere you just click on the ‘Pin It’ bookmarket, decide which image prompt you want to go with it and what board to put it on and you’re away.
If it’s a site without an image you can save and upload your own so it still works.
You can put a ‘Follow me on Pinterest’ widget on your blog as well like I have done here on my blog side bar so that people know that you are pinning on Pinterst and follow along.
I received an email this morning which lead me to write a blog post to illicite some responses from people as to how they promote their class blog and get some interactions and conversations happening through it.
“My kids are very eager to share their learning with others and link up with other schools. In your experience with class blogs, how were you able to promote your blogs with other schools and countries?”
Firstly I would post regular updates on our own blog so that people have something new to read, or look or listen to at on their next visit.
To promote our class blog firstly I made connections with others teachers who blog.
Find like a ‘gym buddy’ – another teacher or class who is keen to link up and learn with you.
To do that I would read their blogs and leave comments for them on their blog. I would maybe do this first as just a teacher and see if they post regularly and are keen for some kind of dialogue. You don’t want to waste your time leaving feedback on a blog that isn’t being updated and monitored.
I would definitely join Twitter and make connections and learn that way. Once on Twitter you can link to your blog and add the hashtag #comments4kids and other teachers/classes may make connections for you.
And I would put links on the side bar of the class blog to the other blogs that you regularly converse with. Not too many because you could loose track but your favourite ones that post and comment often.
Quadblogging is another cool concept- David Mitchell on Twitter has initiated a project where four classes get together and take turn about being the centre of attention and leaving of comments. The web site links classes together globally but we have just done it informally with a couple of nearby schools with good success and enthusiasm in the participating classes.
The idea of sending out a travel toy like Kirsten McGhie does in her class is also a great idea to spread news of your blog around. Here is Kirsten’s EdTalk video about here travel toy.
Generally just think of fun ways to engage children with your blog- make it interactive and interesting. Write posts that incite interest and conversation- leave things open ended.
Lastly I would make sure that every piece of paper that goes out from your class has the blog address on it so the parent / whanau community know where on the web you are. I would also make sure that your blog is linked from the school web site so that visitors cruising the web can easily find you.
What suggestions do you have for promoting your class blog that you can add to help Katie?
I just made a Google presentation under my own account- then I made a slide for each student.
I made sure it was open for everyone to edit without a log in.
Then put a link to that presentation on the blog so the children would know where to find it.
Children then went to the blog, clicked on the link, found their slide and filled it in. I believe that twenty people can edit a Google presentation at one time so as many children as there are computers can work on editing.
When everyone has done editing I then close it off by making it so no one can edit it so no cherub could wreck it and write stuff in the holidays that I didn’t know of.
I then put the html embed code on the blog so it would play there.
If all that seems a bit tricky then I have made a three minute tutorial on how to do it.
At Learning at School Kevin Honeycutt suggested that we make learning rewindable- here I have done just that.
If you get stuck you can rewind, pause or stop the video while you practice.
Make it full screen by clicking on the bottom right hand corner of the video if you want a better view.
We engage with our children through blogging throughout the year and I wondered if, in the spirit of collaboration, we might come together to share some of our favourite posts that we have published during the year. Some teachers just picked the one post that was most memorable for them and some teachers asked their students which posts most resonated with them.
I also thought the resource may then be useful for others as they look forward to 2012 to see what others have been blogging about in other parts of the country.
My next step was to think of a place to put the pages and web links. A year and a half ago my preference would have been to make a wiki but this year I have really appreciated the ease of use and cleaness of using a Google site. I often find Wikispaces tricky and things don’t sometimes turn out how you want them to when I am using a wiki.
At first I promoted the idea of people editing the Google site themselves and adding their own images and links but at the busy report writing time of the year people didn’t seem so keen on that idea so I just asked them to email or tweet me the links and I would do the rest.
I made a two column table on the Google site to keep the formatting even and had to add an extra column as the number of posts grew. Now it doesn’t look so pretty when viewed on my iPad but no matter.
As people sent me the link I took a screen grab of the post ( Shift + Command + 4 on my Mac ) and then hyperlinked the image and the URL web address.
This post is probably over long but I am writing it in Evernote on my iPad on a flight back from Auckland after having been evacuated from the Nelson floods. Contrary to public opinion I cannot hold back flood waters so attended a Sustainability Forum up north for a couple of days instead. Now I look forward to spending a few days slushing away the mud at home.
You are welcome to tweet or email me your links from your own blog before the new year and I can add them to the resource.
Last week I got an email from Krista Swanner, a 4th grade teacher at Oak Grove School in California, who was wanting to know how I put things together in my classroom. Not wanting to spend hours answering her I tried to find my TeacherTube video I made in 2007 for the Time4OnLine Conference and they had changed the web address for it so it took a lot of mucking about to see it so I re-uploaded it to YouTube. The original video has had over 29,000 views which is quite amazing as I haven’t looked at it myself for a year or so and I haven’t aged at all!
The basic organisation of how I worked things has changed a bit but the basics still hold true- IMHO anyway.
A couple of weeks ago I made a resource to support our Lead Teachers as we begin exploring the Virtual Learning Network Resource for kiwi teachers to connect and collaborate.
The VLN is a social learning community where teachers, learners, school leaders and facilitators connect, join virtual programmes/projects, share experiences, and develop new ways to support learning through ICTs.
Please use this VLN help site to help you find your way through the VLN and get the most out of the possibilities that it offers. The beginning video is useful in realising why this sort of learning is beneficial. If there is anything you would like me to add please let me know in the comments.
Here is my reflection on our journey to use RSS to communicate and learn from one another.
Context Our Nelson Link Learning Cluster is a group of thirty-five schools wide spread from Hira to Wakefield to Riwaka in the Nelson basin. As you can see we are geographically spread so opportunities for group meetings are precious and costly. We are a primary school cluster with one Intermediate School, one residential school for girls with special learning needs, one specialised special needs school, rural, urban, contributing and full primary. It can take an hour and half to drive from one school to another!
We are loosely based around The Loop collaboration of schools working on fibre ultra-fast broadband but not exclusively so.
Cluster Goal Our goal is to encourage teachers to share e-learning best practice, encouraging reflection and sharing.
Goal: Ensuring collegial support by encouraging teachers and schools to develop reflective practices to reflect on and share their e-learning experiences.
Intentions- why did we do this?
To bring the cluster teachers together to share practice and see what other teachers are doing with their blogs
For teachers to personalise their professional development by reading the thoughts of educational leaders directly
To interact with educational leaders directly by contributing to conversation in comments.
For Principals to be aware of what teachers on their staff are publishing on their school blogs in the school name.
For Principals to encourage and participate in the publishing of their teachers
For Principals to personalise their professional development by reading what other principals and thought leaders are sharing on line
Interventions- What we did The cluster facilitator had attended Learning at School in Rotorua some years ago and attended a workshop run by David Warlick on using RSS as a means to personalising your online reading experience.
As part of our Lead Teacher Day programme at the end of last year (2010) we had had an attempt to set up a Google Reader RSS feed but it was not as successful as we had hoped because we are such a large group of nearly forty people and not all of us could connect to the internet at the same time so many of were not able to set up and populate their RSS feed.
We thought that having an RSS feed was an important way to help us move toward fulfilling our cluster goal of share e-learning best practice so we tried again in 2011 with the venue’s new wireless internet solution and we were all able to be on line at the same time. A screencast video tutorial could give some assistance to those who found the process tricky.
As a resource we used a handout by Sylvia Tolasino and the facilitator was able to share her personal RSS and how to add a READER and SUBSCRIBE bookmark to participants’ web browser toolbars. For some even being able to view their browser toolbar was a challenge.
Many teachers over the past six months had already created a Google Account so it made sense to use Google Reader for their RSS feed as Bloglines was, at that stage, in decline, and some schools already have Google Apps.
We had previously recorded our cluster blogs on our wiki so teachers were able to retrieve their colleagues’ blogs from the database.
Teachers were then able to choose which blogs to subscribe to with their Google Reader. People were then encouraged to comment, encourage and learn from other’s blogs found through their RSS Reader. The aim is to reprise the concept each following cluster workshop so that we can share our challenges and new learning.
We repeated this session with Principals at their next cluster meeting. Principals looked at the activity from the differing perspective of knowing what is happening in their school and to learn from reading the blogs of other New Zealand principals and educational leaders.
The facilitator wrote a blog post with links to NZ blogging principals and invited others through her Twitter network and blog to add any principals that she had missed. Principals could then easily see the hyperlinks to the blogs of others.
Challenges Teachers and Principals were able to create an RSS feed. Some later asked for more individual assistance to make sure that they ‘got it’. This was appreciated as it showed that they could see the usefulness and purpose of having an RSS feed.
Some, although they created an RSS feed at the workshop, have not followed through to use and add to their RSS in their own time quoting a lack of time or focus on other things.
Lead Teachers are still getting to grips with the practice themselves and many are not yet ready to share their new learning with others on their staff.
Impact on students/teachers/whanau Some lead teachers have really taken the practice on board and are successfully forming partnerships with other teachers and their classes through their class blogs. Teachers have reflected how cool it was to have their peers comment and give feedback on their blogs.
The teachers who are regularly checking their RSS feeds are learning what others are doing in their classes and are beginning to open their class to others.
We need to revisit using RSS at future Lead Teacher days to ensure that the practice becomes more embedded.
We need to encourage people to, once they have read their new content, to move out of their RSS reader to converse and give feedback to the authors on a more regular basis
We need to encourage and support Lead Teachers to share the use of RSS with their team back at school so that it becomes a regular way to share their practice and personalise their professional development.
Since the end of last year I have been looking for an easy to use, collaborative mind mapping tool. Over the weekend I think I may have found one. Popplet lets you easily intuitively create Popplets, change their colours, text size, and links. I am having a bit of trouble with the collaborative side of things as my invites don’t seem to be getting through. I like it over some others that I have tried that are too hard to navigate and it does embed nicely elsewhere.
When you are looged in you can number the Popplets and out it into Presentation Mode and get a Prezi like experience without the seasick feeling.
You can export it as a pdf or jpeg which is also handy.
The task I was trying to do is link the Key Competencies to web tools that may support them but I am finding that lots of web tools fit across all the Key competencies and my mind map is looking a bit crowded.
Last week I had the privilege of attending part of the Nelson Principals’ Conference at Lake Rotoiti. I was there to facilitate an ICT challenge but I went up on the evening before so I could capture the dawn on the lake- something that I’ve always wanted to do. Here is my Flickr set that I’m really pleased with. Here’s the five frame storytelling outline that we completed. Well done Team Drummond for your spectacular presentation.
They had David Gurteen talking about the Knowledge Cafe- the idea behind the knowledge cafe is to re-create some of the conversations that happen in the pub after the staff meeting, where people feel OK to really express themselves and challenge each other on an equal footing and say what they really think.
David quoted Theodore Zeldin on conversation, “Conversation is a meeting of minds with different memories and habits. When minds meet, they don’t just exchange facts: they transform them, reshape them, draw different implications from them, and engage in new trains of thought. Conversation doesn’t just reshuffle the cards: it creates new cards.“
“The kind of conversation I like is one in which you are prepared to emerge a slightly different person.”
Theodore Zeldin (b. 1933) Historian & Author
David Gurteen’s comments: “I love this quote and use it in many of my presentations and workshops, especially when I am talking about the meaning of dialogue. I also tell people in my knowledge cafes that this is the sort of conversation they should be having – not a conversation where they tell people things but a conversation where they listen and learn in other words a ‘learning conversation“.
Conversational dynamics are better with smaller groups of four or thereabouts. It sounds a lot like our planned cluster unconference.
The process of a knowledge cafe- small groups, conversation based around a question, 5-10 minutes, ask a few people to move to another group, others sit tight and continue- coming back together but don’t report back- try and have another big group conversation- everyone can contribute. By changing groups the dominant ones when moved tend to be less so after being moved changes the group dynamics.
‘Who would like to share something with the wider group?’ For a larger group you may need a mike. One big circle at the end. Finally ask each person for one sentence in reflection of the process or the new perceptions as a result of the conversation.
The key outcome from a knowledge cafe is what people take away in their heads- a deeper understanding of one another, a better appreciation of your own point of view and the perspectives of others. A better understanding of each other and thus improved relationships and collaboration.
I would like to give the Knowledge Cafe a go at Thursday’s lead teacher meeting and in my classroom. I think the world needs more conversation- people tend to talk past each other not to each other.
And a final quote from Theodore Zeldin, “Change the way you think, and you are halfway to changing the world.“
Welcome to my keynote for the K12 Online Conference. The whole process has been a learning experience for me as I made decisions about what parts of my classroom programme that I thought people may be interested in. I also pushed myself a little in publishing the video using iMovie09 which I wasn’t very familiar with.
When I showed my class the finished video they seemed happy enough with it and gave it a round of applause so I was pleased it got a tick of approval from my most important audience.
I started the class blog in 2005 and this Edublog in 2007.
I had no real idea how sharing what we do as a class and my reflections as a teacher would lead but it seemed like an interesting experiment at the time. It seems incredible to me now how I only started blogging and sharing on line five short years ago. The whole process has been transformative for me as a teacher.
The use of ICT has allowed us to share our practice in ways that have never been practicable in the past.
Before the availability and accessibility of online learning teachers were sealed in their classroom cocoons with few opportunities to visit others’ classes or learn from others’ experiences outside their neigbourhood.
The world of ICT has opened my eyes and the eyes of my children to a world of infinite possibilities.
My question for you is how can you share your classroom practice with others?
How do you collaborate and learn from others.
How are you able to offer children choices in their learning?
On Monday our Link Learning ICTPD cluster had the privilege of having Ewan McIntosh spend the day with us. Ewan came to us directly from Scotland at the start of a whirlwind New Zealand tour. We had a great turnout with people coming from over the hill to Salisbury School in Richmond.
This was the first time I had organised such an event and it went fairly smoothly although we were unable to get internet access for Ewan for the first half of the day. We could either have a beautiful but small room with one ethernet cable or a larger spacious room with no access. For Ewan to be internet-less made it hard for him and hard for us.
The local newspaper turned up at lunchtime and interviewed Ewan. We set up a fake photo and I got my picture in the paper! They cropped me from the digital version of the interview- life’s like that!
I took copious notes from Ewan’s presentation but I thought I would compress them down a few critical points as take aways.
For me it came down to one word-
Ewan encouraged us to share our practice. We have an obligation to those not able to attend a day like this to share our practice- the good and the things that didn’t go so well.
I found that I related a lot to this part of Ewan’s talk. Having just landed this fabulous job as Link Learning ICT Facilitator I would never have been able to do this job effectively if I had not begun sharing my practice only five short years ago. There are lots of incredibly awesome teachers out there that only small groups of children and their parents know about.
If you share your teaching, your classroom, you do open yourself up for a whole new world of collaboration and learning. I have been asked to keynote a strand of the K12 On Line Conference later this year by making a video ‘A Week in My Classroom’. My first impulse was to compress a month’s worth of ICT into a ‘pretend’ week but on reflection I think I will make a more honest video- the trials, the successes, the challenges. We’ll see how it goes as I share it!
What are some of the things that are barriers to our sharing?
Time is always a biggie and Ewan suggests we start a 100 hour challenge. Carve out an hour a day for the thing that we set our desires on doing and then do it for one hundred days. At the end of that time you can evaluate how well it went. You can’t say you gave your goals a decent shot at it unless you actually do it. Don’t expect perfection- be happy with ‘pretty good’. I recall an interview with Sir Peter Jackson when he said, “Films are never finished, they are only abandoned.” You can waste a lot of time trying to perfect projects- just do it!
Lack of momentum- leverage your project- think of things that you can do to nurture your project- to make it more successful. Pitch it to others with a ‘hook’ of having something in it that they want or would find useful for them- personalise it. Get others to buy into it to make your project sustainable.
Fear- fear of people knowing about your practice. I know that some people think the things that I blog share about are irrelevant but I get to moderate the feedback and the comments! In all my days of blogging and sharing I have never had to delete anything but spam in the way of feedback. People are either supportive, lurking or silent. In 2005 when I first started blogging I never really gave thought to the consequences- I just did it cos it seemed like an interesting thing to try. I wasn’t afraid because I didn’t know that anyone else would read or know what I was doing anyway. The benefits of sharing my practice has been HUGE. I now have a wide circle of supportive, helpful peers that I can learn from because we SHARE. These people are scattered around New Zealand and overseas- not necessarily in the classroom next door.
Not having the gear- People who know me know I like the shiny toys as much as any Apple girl would but in my classroom I have a lot less gear than lots of others but I still do OK stuff. I have a data projector that sits on a disused fish aquarium stand and it shines onto an ordinary whiteboard with cords running across the floor to the wall socket. I have my TELA laptop, three netbooks and two old eMacs and a wireless internet connection that is sometimes dodgy in the way of kit. I supplement that an old handi-down digital camera from home and my iPod I got free with my home laptop. No Interactive whiteboard, no ceiling mounted data projector, no iPad, no Flip video, no Apple laptops, no computer suite! Fancy gear can help but is not a deal breaker. Last year we had one data projector to share among the whole school. I remember before we got that data projector we just gathered around the eMac!
So those are some of the things that can put people off sharing but the benefits can be enormous.
If you share your practice with others, they will share right back at you. As an example some people get on Twitter, follow a few people and immediately start asking for things because they have heard that Twitter can be really useful for finding out stuff, they then wonder why no-one replies and then say Twitter is just stupid. Firstly you need to connect with a circle of people who are interested in the same sorts of things as you. Then share some of your practice- build momentum for your project or idea.
If you share you don’t have to do all the work yourself. For example – Delicious- You take a little bit of time to register, put a couple of bookmarklets in your toolbar, add me to your network, network with the teachers that I network with and save some fabulous resources into the cloud for you to access after you have handed back you TELA laptop. This whole task would take about ten minutes but you would then have access to a rich resource base on all things educational- far better than a random Google Search and all there at your fingertips no matter what computer you are using or where you are.
Collaboration- if you are sharing with others you automatically open the door to others pitching in to build your project with you. As an example last term I set up a maths basic facts wiki so that parents could access our basic facts worksheets from home and help their children with learning and children could play on line games that supported them at their level. I then asked my Personal Learning Network to contribute more activities that they knew about. The resource is now considerably richer because of that collaboration.
Ewan shared a lot more throughout the day as well but these are the things that I particularly wanted to expand on in this blog post. We have an obligation to share our learning and our practice so that others who weren’t able to take a day from their classrooms can learn too.
There were eighty people at Ewan’s day in Nelson. So people what are you going to share?
My more detailed notes from the day can be found in download form here.
My mate, Brian Crosby, recently had his ISTE10 video published on YouTube. I thought I would embed it here to share. Brian is a classroom teacher who integrates ICT into his daily classroom practice to entice his class to participate and build learning power. He makes learning engaging and relevant.
We even get a mention as well. It’s almost like being there. One day, Brian, one day….
Not being known for being the sharpest knife in the drawer I have taken a fair bit of push to use Google Apps with my class although I use the Google Docs package extensively myself. The main reason why I never used Google Apps for Educators in my class is I didn’t know how to specifically and I didn’t know the usernames and passwords for the children in my class or even where they would log in. So after a bit of beavering away and a little help from my on-line Personal Learning Network I am there!
The final push that took me over the edge of thinking it might be something worth trying and spending my evening free time (ROFL) investigating more deeply was that because our wonderful COW of Apple laptops are basically dead or on their last legs and as we couldn’t afford to replace them in one hit we have leased three baby netbooks for my class. Frankly I loathe them but we do the best we can with what we’ve got and at least I have something apart from my TELA laptop for the kids to use. I also have two slow and troublesome eMacs bringing the total that my class has to six so I suppose I shouldn’t whine. Anyway, the kids want to draft their stories on the netbooks and of course they don’t have WORD on them and I couldn’t find the time to download Open Office.
So I found out where to log in for Google Apps and put a link to it at the top of our blog so the kids knew where to look. I fleetingly got myself Admin access to Google Apps and entered the kid’s names and gave them passwords that were the same as their e-AsTTle log ins so we could remember them. Then my admin privileges were gone but the set up work had been done.
Admittedly the children in my class are generally fairly ICT capable for eight year olds and all but three have internet access at home so they catch on pretty quickly to new ideas. I had one session with the whole class in front of the data projector to show them where to log in and let them read the screen as to what they needed to do to create a new document, write and draw on it and share it with others within the domain.
They caught on exceedingly well and work has been pouring in ever since. We are basically in the PLAY stage of learning- where we discover what we can do with the tool.
Just in time learning on Sunday night before our Rocky Shore field trip my PLN brought me Tom Barrett’s post about using Google Spreadsheets. I quickly put one together to record our population counts from our field trip and when we got back we all entered the data as quickly as we could with multiple edits being visible on the whiteboard as we went. It was a good way to make sure everyone got a shot at logging in and recording their data and conclusions.
It’s all good and we are finding out new things together which is even better than me teaching kids how to do things my way. New things in new ways. All this in four short weeks. Yay
Tonight a got an email from Jacelyn at Goldfields Primary School in Otago asking that I give her a hand with some hyperlinking on her blog as it had her perplexed. It seemed like a lot of typing to explain so I made a little video using http://showmewhatswrong.com/. It is just so free and easy that I thought I might have the kids in may class make little instructional videos as well later on. Videos that you make are deleted from their servers after seven days so if you want to keep it for longer you have to download it which is easy.
Once I had made the video I downloaded it so I could upload it to Blogger. The video of course ended up being tiny in Blogger so I put it in my public Dropbox folder so that people could view it in a decent size. I have 5GB of storage in Dropbox so size doesn’t matter really. Here is the video tutorial in its hugeness.
How simple it is to make connections and support the learning of children both in my own classroom and another in Bangkok. Last week Jeff Utecht at ISB, Bangkok, sent out a couple of tweets inviting people to encourage a few of his fifth grade bloggers who were just learning how to blog and recording their instructions on constructing a science experiment exploring variables. It helps, maybe, that I had met Jeff while on holiday to Bangkok earlier this year, but that personal encounter isn’t really relevant to the connection.
I made a few comments on the grade five blogs and was particularly impressed with young Haley’s post. To encourage her and show her how the whole blogging thing might work, I decided to replicate her experiment in my own class the next day, using Haley’s procedural writing to help us with our instructions.
Setting up the experiment took five minutes of my time and my class took a couple of photos and quickly blogged about their results and I added a link to it for Haley through her blog comments so she could find our post the next day at school.
Haley learnt about the power of blogging in a real context and my class made another connection and further cemented their own learning about variables that we had completed as part of our science fair earlier in the term. Following up on a question that Haley asked in a comment I was able to share a Voicethread we had made earlier on New Zealand currency. You can see how these things can grow.
What if we share our data with the class in New Zealand?
I wonder if longitude and latitude is a variable we need to consider (Social Studies)
I wonder if we’ll get the same results? (Science)
How can we best represent our data for someone else to read? (Math, Science)
Why is writing clear instructions important? (Writing)
These connections don’t need to be huge, or time consuming, or hard. They just need a little time, a little energy and a buddy who wants to share and learn. The whole process isn’t in the least bit scary.